I was recently convinced by Hersey to present at our Hampton Roads VMUG on automation and orchestration. As this is still a relatively misinterpreted topic, I took the opportunity to differentiate between automating tasks, and combining those tasks to orchestrate complex workflows, along with some examples. What I gathered from the session is that there is a general lack of experience with today’s automation and orchestration platforms, but tons of genuine interest. I’ve felt late to the game the more I learn, but perhaps I’m right on time. Not enough people are headed down this path yet, so If I can help someone get started, that’s fantastic.
Automation and orchestration are not new, but if it’s new to you, rest assured there will never be a bad time to dive in. The toolsets for datacenter and cloud continue to grow in popularity and maturity, bringing features that make the process easier than ever before. These advancements are heavily driven by the software-defined era, where server/storage/network/security solutions are as much software now as the applications running on them. Include the fact that IT shops are having to ultra standardize in order to survive, and you get vendors that buy-in and start developing on these toolsets to ease management and enable automation of their products.
This has opened the door for admins and engineers to begin ‘programming’ their work to increase the speed of deployments. Speed up infrastructure deployments, speed up application releases, everybody’s happy on the path to devops. I realized this through the monotonous yet complex work of building/retiring servers and storage. I wanted to eventually make this process self-service for IT. Our environment was primed and the tools were already owned, just needed to begin building the automation. I went for the workflow platform native to our virtualized infrastructure, and extensible enough to the rest, vRealize Orchestrator (formerly vCenter Orchestrator).
Enough with theory though, let’s move on to a brief overview of Orchestrator, along with some examples of how my developer-in-crime and I have put it to work for us. Hopefully this will spark some ideas out there.